Alternate Final Essay: Evaluative Argument: If not doing the service-learning essay,
students are to write a 4-5 page, typed argumentative essay evaluating which of the
readings was most useful for this course [related to its objectives, purposes and goals]
and why? Authors should present a strong, reasoned argument and support it with
evidence from the text, from personal experience, or interviews with classmates.
Students must first develop the criteria for “the most useful reading” and then match their
chosen piece to those criteria.
Evaluative arguments, unlike those trying to seek an absolute truth (like definition
arguments) make a comparison among things; they evaluate the relative value of
something. They take the form “X is a good (or bad) Y because....” As in definition
arguments, Y is sometimes described as the criteria to which X is matched, in this case,
“the best or most useful reading,” which should correspond to the objectives and student
outcomes for the course. In other evaluative arguments, you might have to work pretty
hard to define what are the criteria for a good Y; here, you can just consult the syllabus,
though you are also welcome to problematize those criteria. For instance, you could
argue that though the stated goals of the course are A, B, C, the real goals of the course
are or should be D, E, F.
Counter-arguments will likely include rebuttals to other possible arguments, pertaining to
either X or Y. For instance, one of your peers could debate what the most important
goals of the course are. Another peer could agree with you that learning to write well is
the most important goal of the course, but argue that sample essays like bell hooks’s are
more important in teaching good writing than the St. Martin’s Handbook, for instance.
These essays have the advantage of having a real audience in the instructors for the
course, who revise this course together every year. Reflections about the theme of Person
in Community may also help prepare you for the rest of the Cultural Heritage sequence
and other Core courses.